Clear up stereotypes of engineering

The challenge of developing engineering talents and deepening expertise in this aspect will become more pronounced in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and in positioning Singapore for success in the future ("Engineering key to Singapore's future as smart nation: PM"; last Saturday).

The authorities should help to overcome cultural, social, economic, gender and educational barriers to resolving this challenge.

For a start, there is a need to eradicate perception bias, misleading information and negative stereotypes of engineering.

The public and private sectors should work together to promote a positive image and raise awareness of engineering. They should highlight values and benefits of being an engineer and pursuing an engineering career.

Key stakeholders should provide effective career information, guidance and coaching to help suitable students choose engineering studies and pursue the appropriate disciplines.

Role models, especially female ones, should be promoted to appeal to young people.

Teachers and students should actively engage and collaborate with engineers and organisations to ensure that after graduation, these students are properly oriented and are well positioned to enjoy and achieve success.

The authorities should also continue to recruit professionals and support staff into the teaching profession.

All the necessary resources should be provided to help develop these educational leaders to become good pace setters and to contribute to the growth of future generations of engineers.

In addition, the authorities should continue to improve and develop more innovative curricula and pedagogical approaches in order to further attract, retain and stimulate stronger interest in teaching and studying engineering.

For example, there is ample evidence to show that adopting an inquiry-based approach in engineering education, including highlighting observation, experimentation, sharing of best practices, and guided hands-on practice can enhance the appeal and contextualisation of engineering subjects.

To change students' mindset about engineering and build up a pool of ever-improving engineering talents and expertise is a long-term challenge.

Tackling it in a more aggressive way should begin soon because the effects can be felt only after a long time. My concern is that we may be running out of time.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Clear up stereotypes of engineering'. Print Edition | Subscribe